On June 10, two out of three dogs died a senseless death because they were left in a closed-up car. The high temperature that day in Fallon was 93 degrees. The dogs’ owner (let’s call this person “J. Doe”) claims that the dogs were left alone for no longer than 30 minutes.
What can happen in 30 minutes? At 85 degrees, which is more tolerable than 93 degrees, a car’s interior will be 120 degrees. At this point, the oncoming heat stroke starts affecting internal organs. Here is what WebMD says about heat stroke in dogs:
“Heat stroke begins with heavy panting and difficulty breathing. The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red. The saliva is thick and tenacious, and the dog often vomits. The rectal temperature rises to 104° to 110°F. The dog becomes progressively unsteady and passes bloody diarrhea. As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membranes turn gray. Collapse, seizures, coma, and death rapidly ensue.”
We at CAPS are of course saddened by any pet’s preventable death, but in this case one of these dogs, who we will call “Spot,” had been adopted from CAPS in September 2010, along with another dog, who we will call “Spike,” who thankfully did not die. We did not know Spot’s companion-in-death.
J. Doe contends that the deaths were an unforeseeable accident because the alternator quit running, cutting the power that ran air conditioning. CAPS contends that this was foreseeable because common sense dictates that car parts can malfunction at any time and responsible pet owners do not leave their companions in closed vehicles when it’s hot.
And what did J. Doe do? This person adopted a pit bull puppy the very next day! The puppy was given to J. Doe’s 18-year-old daughter, who lives with her parent, as a “gift.”
On June 15, a CAPS staff member legally seized not only Spike but also the puppy from J. Doe’s daughter, the legal owner, who willingly signed the surrender form. On this date, they were living at a local motel, though both parent and daughter had been homeless only shortly before. The daughter fully understood that they weren’t able to care for the dogs in their present situation.
Prior to claiming Spike and the puppy, CAPS personnel filed a report with the Fallon Police Department, which turned it over to county sheriff’s office, and requested that an officer accompany the staff member. (However, all deputies were attending to other business at the time, but problems weren’t encountered.)
You may be wondering how CAPS can do this. When a dog or cat is adopted, the adopter must sign a contract that lists several provisions. Two of these are the following, which J. Doe initialed when adopting the dogs:
Item 2 of the contract: “I will accept this animal as a household pet and companion and will comply with all laws and ordinances in force in the area in which I reside by providing humane care, proper food, water, shelter, exercise, and competent veterinary care in case of illness or injury applicable to above described animal.” (NRS 574.195 states that leaving a pet animal in a vehicle in unsafe conditions is a crime.)
Item 4: “I will return said animal to CAPS if, at any time, I am requested to do so by the Society because of my violation of any of the terms of this agreement, making no charge for its upkeep or for any other reason.”
Since that Saturday when Spike and the puppy were rescued, J. Doe has repeatedly asked for permission to speak to the board of directors and have Spike returned. The board has refused because J. Doe clearly did not follow the provisions in the signed contract. The board fully backs all regulations that the shelter requires for adoptions, low-cost spay/neuter help and the like.
On June 18, Teresa Summers, executive director and shelter manager, spoke with Art Mallory, Churchill County’s district attorney, about this situation, and we have been assured that seizing both dogs, but particularly the puppy, was legal. In addition, J. Doe is still not taking responsibility for the dogs’ deaths and will not be able to adopt from CAPS in the future.
In conclusion, the CAPS board and staff urge you to leave your furry friend home in hot weather. Please be a responsible pet owner or don’t have pets.
This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.